Most, but of course not all, of us are given long lives by nature that we shorten by a variety of destructive behaviours and environmental influences. In one of the Oz books, the author, Frank Baum, poses an interesting ethical question.
“The King of the Realm had given his wife and children to the Nome King in exchange for a long life”.
The King of the Realm subsequently destroyed his life by leaping into the sea. Was he cheated by the wizard, or had he been given a long life that he want only destroyed?
Similary, most of the people in our society indulge themselves into self health-destructing behaviors that so frequently destroy their longevity.
Poor food habits and nutritional deficiencies and excesses, along with smoking, toxic factors in the environment, and trauma, are the major determinants which we fail to closely relate with functional capacity, health, ageing and hence shorten the natural individuals’ longevity.
Obesity is one of the problem or rather a disease that comes out of bad eating habit, people’s one way of making it okay to smoke like a chimney or eat like a pig is with individual experiences that supports his/her action or choice.
For instance, one could say, “It hasn’t hurt me yet,” or, “My grandmother/father smoked all her/his life and lived to be 90.”
Although the number of overweight is still low in Rwanda as compared to 40% of adults in the US, they is a rapid increase in these conditions which cannot be ignored.
In addition to its important contribution to hypertension and heart disease, obesity is a major determinant of adult-onset diabetes and musculoskeletal (bones and muscles) disorders.
Adolescent obesity is a serious problem in most industrialized countries, particularly because it usually leads to overweight or obesity in adulthood.
Unless checked by lower fat and total energy intakes and increased physical activity, obesity will be an even more serious problem in developing countries in the future including ours.
Of course, genetic variation in individual resistance is a factor in nearly all diseases, and some individuals are born with genetic traits and inborn errors of metabolism that can be devastating.
Nevertheless, for most persons, health and functional capacity are determined not primarily by their genetic potential but by their health-related behaviours and the quality of their environment. Of other lifestyle factors that are preventable contributors to ill health, tobacco smoking is the most important in many societies.
As a major factor in the occurrence of emphysema, respiratory infections, lung cancer, and coronary heart disease, smoking enormously increases the burden of ill health on individuals and societies, as well as the number of premature deaths. It affects not only the smoker but also those persons in close proximity.
When a behavior is socially unaccepted or even considered undesirable, there is a tendency to say many people are doing it and so the tendency to reconcile, hence the idea to protect themselves against the deadly stress, physical and social damage it causes to the society remains a dream; the smokers often boast these as a success.” The physical environment, as well as the biological and social environments, influences health.
Another essay could be written about the adverse effects of environmental pesticides, toxicants, and other environmental pollution of all kinds. In many of the large cities in the developing world, the air is so polluted from automobiles, trucks, buses, and industry that children are growing up with levels of lead known to impair cognitive development, and persons of all ages have a serious increase in respiratory infections.
Moreover, the situation is worsening in most of these cities as they grow, and many millions of persons are affected. Unsafe water supplies, unsanitary disposal of human wastes, and poor food-handling practices that spread enteric diseases are additional contributors to ill health.
The significant characteristic of these adverse environmental factors influencing human health is that they are the consequences of human activities and can largely be prevented by social changes.
To be continued.